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Ms. Rima Fakih. Have you heard of her?
If not, you will soon, for the same reasons that you probably didn’t know about Carrie Prejean, last year’s Miss USA Pageant winner, until you heard later that she was a born-again Christian, that there were racy photos of her on the internet, that she had had various, ehm, body-enhancing surgeries done at the expense of the pageant, that she stood opposed to same sex marriages and that she was stripped of her crown in what turned out to be a prolonged legal battle.
As of Sunday night, Ms. Fakih is the new Miss USA, and while the intrigue surrounding her personal life and victory will probably not generate quite the web traffic Ms. Prejean’s did, it certainly validates the reality of the new media age we live in. Pre- and post-event i-chat and blog ratings are worth almost as much–if not more–than the TV shows themselves.
Fox News was among the many outlets that reported on the racy promotional photos this year’s pageant contestants appeared in,
(You can read my thoughts on that here) as well as the news that Ms. Fakih was a contestant in a radio show’s stripping contest (how do you have a show like that on…radio?!)


Some observers have claimed that the selection of Ms. Fakih, of Arab-American descent, was a sort of “affirmative action” move by a pageant that crowned her over what some have called the more traditional candidate, Miss Oklahoma. The San Francisco Chronicle is one of a number of outlets reporting that her pole dancing pictures will overshadow the racism controversy.
Others have claimed that the question asked of runner-up Miss Oklahoma–regarding Arizona’s new immigration law–was unfair in today’s political climate. (I thought she showed class when articulating a wonderful answer about states’ rights.) Donald Trump, who owns the organization that puts on the Miss USA Pageant, is loving all of this, for obvious reasons:
“We are in a different age. (The pictures) are a little bit sexy but I’ll tell you what – everybody’s watching, so I have no problems with it,” said Trump. “If you look at Miss America, it’s now off network television – and we’re doing better than ever, so I really have no problem with it. ”
Yes I know it’s a business, but when an organization and its leader can so boldly use women to boost ratings–and invite the web universe to do the same–I find myself uninspired by the trend. Last year’s winner stood for her Christian faith and traditional marriage and was stripped of her crown. This year’s winner was a pole-dancing veteran of stripping contests while the runner up is ready to run for office and stand up to the press. I am sure there are many other wonderful stories from the wide variety of contestants that I would rather hear about than who stripped or posed for who.
But as long as scantily-clad photos are honored more than values and character by our society, we cannot blame Mr. Trump or anyone in his organization for doing their job. We have met the enemy and, in a cultural trend that lifts up these kind of values. I hope there will be some cultural heroes who will take us the other direction. And–for the sake of my three girls–I hope it is soon!

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